Skip to main content

What Happens When You Don't Write

Dear friends, I've been away from the Octopus for a bit, and have not, as it happens, been writing (here on this blog or anywhere else).  Nothing drastic has caused me to stop tapping at the keys . . . I've had talks and speeches to give . . . and some family matters to take care of . . . and am traveling . . . and just decided to take a rest, for a while.  At first I felt badly about it.  When I'm not writing I feel that I should be, and all sorts of bugbears nip and tear.  Is there something I am missing out on because I'm not sending my words out into the world?  Some connection or insight?  Will I lose the habit, the thread, the meaning of writing, if I stay away from it for a week, or a month, or more?  Will I forget how?  Am I not really a writer if I am not writing every day, if I actually get tired sometimes, and don't want to do it--is it a sign, the beginning of the end, the turning point marking my inevitable decent into catatonia and endless viewings of Seinfeld reruns?  Do I not have an idea left in my head, blood left in my heart or will left in my soul?

If I can get past a few days of self-torture of this kind, I actually do get to a place where I can take a break for a while, and not feel as if I'm sinning against the self.  And then an interesting thing starts to happen.  I start to notice what happens when I'm not writing.  Cases in point:

When I am not writing, I

--spend more time with other human beings, and can actually listen to them
--read more, and read all sorts of things I normally wouldn't
--feel all sorts of random ideas flitting through my head, and discover that some of them are curious and unexpected
--remember I have a body, and that I should care for it
--feel the well slowly filling, not with words, but with energy . . . good, blank energy
--have time to do favors for people
--have time to help my fellow writers
--notice the sky
--feel younger
--feel a little scared
--feel the world bigger than the size of my computer screen

At some point something will tell me it's been enough.  I have rested.  Something will brim and breach again, some idea will stick; I'll take a breath from some deep part of myself that's grown impatient, and I'll know I'm ready again.

But sometimes you have to stop and hear the whales sing.

I'm on my way to the Pacific Coast.

If you find you need to take a break, don't beat yourself up.  That's your soul sounding.



Thanks. I needed that right now.
Jeanna Thornton said…
Mylene, you certainly did not forget how...great post and an important message, especially for (me) new writers. Since mine was one of the groups that benefitted from your down time, I can only say: thank you for the process of recharging!

You proved it! It *is* okay to take a break, to refuel and rejoice!

Have a wonderful break! jink
Fill the well, my friend. After a fallow season, the yield is often more bountiful than ever!
Your post reminds me that there's a balance to be found. Before I started this novel, I'd go long stretches of time between projects, and while some of that time was needed, a lot of it was just me running scared. And yet these last few months, I've been pushing myself and pushing myself, all because of some sort of weird arbitrary internal deadline. I finally have had to tell myself to slow down, and that getting 3 and 4 hours of sleep a night is not healthy, and that it is OKAY to take breaks, especially when I feel the productivity has dropped off. But I'm always scared that I'll let it go for too long, and then I start actually missing the novel, etc. etc.

On the other hand, it's hard to keep writing when the well is dry . . .

Speaking of that, how are you doing on your deadline, Colleen? Getting close?
Jeanna Thornton said…
Kath, your instincts are very good..

Popular posts from this blog

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button": Did you love it or hate it?

Earlier this week, Colleen and I went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", the extraordinary movie based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved it. Colleen not s'much. (I was sitting there choked in tears at the end of the three hour film, so I only vaguely remember her saying something about "watching paint dry.") I want to see it again, so I'm trying to get the Gare Bear to go with me this weekend, but I won't be surprised if he reacts the same way Colleen did. The movie is long. And odd. It requires patience and a complete suspension of disbelief that modern audiences simply aren't trained for, so you've got to be in the right mood for it. The same is true of the short story, though the story and script have very little in common -- at least superficially. The story is very Fitzgerald (though it's not an example of his best writing, IMHO), and the setting -- Baltimore during the industrial revolution, Spanish Americ

APATHY AND OTHER SMALL VICTORIES by Paul Neilan is only good if you enjoy things like laughter

The only thing Shane cares about is leaving. Usually on a Greyhound bus, right before his life falls apart again. Just like he planned. But this time it's complicated: there's a sadistic corporate climber who thinks she's his girlfriend, a rent-subsidized affair with his landlord's wife, and the bizarrely appealing deaf assistant to Shane's cosmically unstable dentist. When one of the women is murdered, and Shane is the only suspect who doesn't care enough to act like he didn't do it, the question becomes just how he'll clear the good name he never had and doesn't particularly want: his own.